A Critique of Karen Wright’s “Guns, Lies, and Video”

Table of Content

In her short article “Guns, Lies, and Video”, Karen Wright provides an overview of the issue of the relationship between media violence and real life violence. She writes that there is considerable contention on the subject, with some experts claiming there is strong evidence for a link between media violence and real aggression, and some experts claiming there is none. According to Wright, determining how media violence actually relates to real aggression is complicated by many factors. Wright also cites several studies, including a long-term study that implies a correlation between exposure to media violence and violent behavior, and a study that determined that violent video games trigger a unique pattern of brain activity compared to otherwise equally exciting nonviolent games. Wright concludes that while authorities on the subject recommend parental control rather than censorship, adults should be careful—they are also susceptible to the effects of media violence.

Wright provides a good overview of the issue of the relationship between media violence and real-life violence; however, her article has some inadequacies, especially regarding the nature of video games compared to movies, television, and music.

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In her introduction, Wright brings the reader’s attention to video games—specifically, she contends that the prevalent practice of allowing children to play violent video games while forbidding them to play with toy guns is questionable, because it seems to assume that toy guns encourage violence while violent video games do not. (par. 1) Wright then points out that there is strong evidence for a correlation between “media violence” and “real aggression,” (par. 2) and in the same paragraph points to an unnamed expert’s estimate that 10 percent of juvenile violence can be accounted for by violence in TV, movies, and music.

However, Wright fails to elaborate on the difference between video games and passive media such as movies and television. Later in the article, Wright states that “those who grew up with the Three Stooges or Super Mario Brothers may have trouble seeing their youthful pastimes in a sinister light. But televised violence has been a topic of national consternation almost from the first broadcast.” (par. 5) Again, Wright implies the interchangeability between television programs and video games, using a video game (Super Mario Brothers) and televised violence as interchangeable parts of a logical sequence.

Wright fails to establish how exactly video games are related to movies/television/music (passive media), aside from the fact that they belong to the categorization “media.” Granted, she does cite a pediatrician, Michael Rich, as having said that “with video games, you’re not only passively receiving attitudes and behaviors, you’re rehearsing them” (par. 3). However, Wright fails to point out that there is a possibility that such a difference (passive vs. active) could make all the difference between a positive and a negative correlation. She also points to a long-term (17 years) study on the effects of television viewing on aggressive behavior, but fails to point out that there are no long-term studies that specifically concern the effects of video-game violence.

Wright implies that violence in video games, in movies, and in television can all be lumped together under the label of “media violence.” She treats movies/television and video games interchangeably. It is, however, possible that the interactive nature of video games makes them so different from more traditional media that it would merit consideration as a wholly different category of behavioral influences.

Additionally, a large portion of Wright’s article revolves around the effects of violence in movies and television, but there is no mention of any studies on the effects of exposure to interactive violence in contrast to passive violence. Wright does not create a strong enough distinction between passive and interactive entertainment.

A particularly strong argument that requires considerable attention (and which Wright fails to mention) is the argument that, on the contrary to common opinion, violent video games allow children to vent out their aggression safely, instead of engaging in actual violent behavior.

Wright does provide some background on the issue. She writes about media violence and mentions that the definition of “media violence” is a subject of some contention among researchers (par. 6). She also points out that it is not clear whether media violence causes violent behavior or if it is the other way around (par. 6). However, she does not mention the possibility that neither causes the other—that a third factor may be at play.

Near the end of the article, Wright uses Rich’s argument that “the advertising industry is built on the faith that media content and consumption can change human behavior,” which illogically leads to “So why does society question the influence of dramatized violence?” Wright’s answer to this question is that Americans seem to regard media violence as an acceptable risk because media violence is entertaining (par. 11). Wright’s article has a few flaws here. Where she could have used the term “sound principle” she uses “faith,” which has the negative connotation a non-objective attitude.

There is no dispute, however, that advertising does change human behavior, but this fact does not support what is implied by the question “so why does society question the influence of dramatized violence?” While it may be true that dramatized violence influences human behavior, it is not certain in what way it does this. However, the context in which the above question appears makes it imply that dramatized violence causes violent behavior. She is thus essentially begging the question.

In conclusion, Wright’s article is quite sufficient for a layperson who wants to get a very basic grasp on the subject. However, it does lack some essential points and does not make for a well-rounded exposition. While Wright does use a neutral and formal tone, which is appropriate for the subject matter, the article is very inadequate for anyone (such as a student or a researcher) who intends to have a grasp on every basic aspect of the issue. While the article would probably be sufficient for a casual reader, a student or researcher should look elsewhere.

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A Critique of Karen Wright’s “Guns, Lies, and Video”. (2017, Jan 26). Retrieved from


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